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The Shore Conference Tournament begins today, and for the coaches on the tournament committee, this was likely the most difficult field to seed. Aside from the top three - Rumson-Fair Haven, Southern Regional and Christian Brothers Academy - who have not lost to a Shore Conference opponent this season, the waters are quite murky. The top 10 below nearly mirrors the top 10 seeds in the SCT because I believe the SCT committee did a great job seeding the teams considering how many triangles (team A beats team B but loses to team C who lost to team B, etc.) there are. Looking over each team’s resume proved only one thing: the conference is as balanced and competitive as ever. Rumson may be the favorite to bring home its fourth straight SCT title, but it’s far from a slam dunk. The first round and quarterfinal games should be chock full of excitement and come down to the wire. With several first-round matchups being the first meeting between the respective teams this season, it’s another chance for squads to further their position in the rankings. Let the games being.


Shore Sports Network Top 10

1. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-2; Last week: 1): The Bulldogs continue to cruise along, although an 8-7 win over St. John Vianney after leading 4-0 early in the game certainly raised some eyebrows around the Shore. Rumson is solid and steady in all areas of the game and has a great face-off man in Ryan Campbell. The only potential pitfall for the Bulldogs is an offense that has been streaky. The question is can any Shore team capitalize if Rumson’s offense hits a cold snap. The Bulldogs get a first-round bye in the SCT and will face the winner of Freehold Township and Manasquan in the quarterfinals.


2. Southern (12-1; Last week: 2): You get the feeling the Rams are entering the tournament with a chip on their shoulder. After losing a one-sided SCT final to Rumson last year, Southern has its sight set on its first SCT title. A lot of people aren’t sold on Southern this year, and that mostly has to do with a schedule that hasn’t challenged the Rams. They lost their first game of the season, 8-6, to a very good Lenape team. Since then, they’ve blown the doors off of every team they’ve faced. Now they have some quality teams in front of them and a chance to show just how good of a team they are. They host 15th-seeded Toms River South in the first round.


3. Christian Brothers Academy (10-2; Last week: 3): The Colts answered a lot of questions following a blowout loss to Princeton. They rallied to defeat both No. 4 Red Bank Catholic and No. 7 Red Bank with great fourth-quarter performances by seniors Matt McGuiness and Thomas Deiner. This is a well-coached team with great senior leadership that has proven to be exceptionally clutch, and that makes them the tournament’s most dangerous unit. CBA hosts 13th-seeded Howell in the first round and is in line to face 6th-seeded Red Bank or 11th-seeded St. John Vianney in the quarterfinals.


4. Red Bank Catholic (10-5; Last week: 4): At first glance it does seem odd that a team having lost three of its last four doesn’t move down in the rankings, but at this point the Caseys deserve a top-four ranking based on body of work. RBC owns wins over Red Bank, Freehold Township, Manasquan and St. John Vianney. Losses to Rumson, CBA and Holmdel were back-and-forth games that reflect the balance in the Shore as opposed to discrediting the Caseys. RBC hosts 13th-seeded Howell in the first round, and could earn a rematch with Holmdel in the quarterfinals.


5. Holmdel (9-4; Last week: 7): The Hornets’ week epitomizes this year in the Shore Conference. Holmdel’s first big conference game since falling to Rumson, 6-3 on April 2, was its 7-3 win over RBC this past Thursday. Holmdel looked like it was in position to grab the No. 4 seed before it was stunned by No. 8 Manasquan, 7-6. Fortunately for Holmdel, the loss didn’t hurt them too much outside of potentially losing a home game in the quarterfinals. They host 12th-seeded Colts Neck in the first round and would matchup with RBC again in the quarterfinals if the Caseys are also victorious.


6. Wall (9-3; Last week: 5): The Crimson Knights fall one spots through no fault of their own. They basically swapped spots with Holmdel after the the Hornets upended No. 4 RBC. Wall was seeded behind Red Bank in the SCT, but stays ahead of the Bucs here thanks to a 9-5 win on April 12. Wall’s SCT road potentially takes it through two Ocean County squads, as the Knights host 10th-seeded and undefeated Barnegat in the first round and with a win would face No. 2 Southern in the quarterfinals. The opportunity is there for Wall to make a huge jump next week.


7. Red Bank (10-5; Last week: 6): The Bucs suffered a heartbreaking loss to No. 3 CBA this past Saturday, 11-9, after leading 9-7 heading to the fourth quarter. Three of Red Bank’s five losses this season have come by two goals or less. The Bucs have proven they can hang with the Shore’s best, but they have to close out one of these games to make the jump into the upper echelon of the conference. They host St. John Vianney in the first round of the SCT where a win could give them another crack at CBA.


8. Manasquan (9-3; Last week: 9): The Warriors have won three in a row following an 8-1 loss to No. 4 Red Bank Catholic on April 19, including an 11-10 win over St. John Vianney and a 7-6 win over a red-hot Holmdel team that had its sights set on a top-four seed in the SCT. Manasquan hosts Freehold Township in the first round on Tuesday with the winner facing No. 1 Rumson in the quarterfinals.


9. Freehold Township (7-4; Last week: 8): The most polarizing team in the Shore, the Patriots could be eliminated in the first round just as easily as they could make a run to the semifinals. The two losses early in the season to Toms River South and Marlboro came without two of their best players, but those defeats still have to be accounted for. With that being said, since the return of attackmen Steven O’Brien and Brandon Nunez the Patriots have lost just to CBA and RBC, and own wins over Wall and Red Bank. They travel to Manasquan in the first round.


10. Barnegat (10-0; Last week: 10): The Bengals are the only undefeated team in the Shore Conference, but they still have to prove they can compete with the Shore’s best. They held off Shore Regional, 6-4, in their last game on April 28, and their A-South showdown with Southern was rained out and won’t be made up until after the SCT. That game will lose a lot of its luster if Barnegat doesn’t have a good showing in the tournament. Their quest starts at 7th-seeded Wall in the first round.


Also considered: St. John Vianney, Colts Neck, Howell, Lacey.